Episode 6: Michael Chang on Remembering

March 12, 2013 // News, Podcast

In this episode, Michael Chang of YesVideo talks with New Robot Overlords host Myk Willis about how technology is changing the way we remember.

The conversation starts by talking about the mechanics of the business of transferring “old” media like physical photographs, film, and video into the digital domain. Michael paints an interesting picture of his operation, which has at its receiving end what is essentially a data center running 3,000-4,000 units of old media a day through specialized transfer equipment. Humans control quality and do other spot checks of the process, but essentially are tending the machines that push fragile, antiquated memories into digital permanence.

Michael and Myk discuss the explosion of personal content that has resulted from widespread availability and use of camera and HD-capable smartphones, and how this changes our relationship with our home movies. In a new world of Google Glass and lifeblogging, will it be possible for people to get the same kind of emotional tug from a recording as that elicited in a child of the 1970’s by that rare and grainy video salvaged from a box in the attic? Michael argues that yes, this is still possible, explaining:

Video memories and photos are like wine. They become emotional memories over time.

The discussion touches on whether we are entering an age that brings us the end of forgetting. Myk alludes that given the vast amounts of video and other data captured every day, and the continued growth rates in their creation, it doesn’t seem crazy to believe that we are entering into a singularity of sorts, where the past is no longer open to speculation because of lack of historical record. Every place, every person, every situation, could be revisited as easily as searching the web is today. Could this lead to an end  to the likes of holocaust deniers, tea party “birthers”, and others who would use a lack of complete historical record to advance their ideology or agenda? Michael is not optimistic, noting that there is an incredible amount of curation that goes on today, both intentional and not, that leaves a lot of information “outside of the field of view.” Even if what is outside the field of view becomes dramatically smaller, there will always be pockets where information doesn’t flow freely, ruining any promise of a One True History that everyone could agree on.

The conversation ends with a discussion of what technology challenges await companies like YesVideo in an era where everything is completely in the digital domain. Certainly, there are obvious things like computationally-fueled facial recognition that are already racing forward, but Michael describes areas of more organic and social curation that will aid in search and discovery that will occupy the next generation of this industry.

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